Stem cell therapy to treat LSCD

January 27, 2010

Successful limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD) treatment in eight patients using their own stem cells without immunity suppression has been reported by scientists at the North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI).

Successful limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD) treatment in eight patients using their own stem cells without immunity suppression has been reported by scientists at the North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI).

The research, published in the journal Stem Cells, indicated that transplantation of cultured corneal stem cells without the use of animal cells or products is safe and effective to reconstruct the corneal surface and restore sight in patients with unilateral LSCD.

Professor Michael Whitaker FMedSci, Co-Director of NESCI, which is a collaboration between Durham and Newcastle Universities, Newcastle NHS Foundation Trust and other partners, said: “Stem cells from bone marrow have been used successfully for many years to treat cancer and immune disease, but this is the first successful stem cell therapy using stem cells from the eye without animal products to treat disease, an important step towards the clinic. Because the early results look so promising, we are thinking hard now about how to bring this treatment rapidly into the clinic as we complete the necessary clinical trials, so that the treatment can be shared with all patients that might benefit.”

“The Newcastle team has obtained some very impressive results in patients following stem cell transplants to repair the surface of the cornea. It is hugely exciting to see that a type of stem cell therapy can now be applied routinely to treat a form of blindness,” said Professor Robin Ali, FMedSci, Department of Genetics, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London. “These results also provide us with further encouragement to develop stem cell therapies to repair the retina in order to treat conditions such as age related macular degeneration.”

A larger study involving 24 new patients is currently underway with funding from the UK's Medical Research Council.